President Trump announced Wednesday that he was ordering a suspension of travel to the United States from Europe for a period of 30 days in an effort to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“After consulting with our top government health officials, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and well-being of all Americans,” Trump said during an address from the Oval Office. “To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday night at midnight.”
Saying that the U.S. has “seen dramatically fewer cases” than European countries thanks to his decision to ban travel to and from China last month, Trump then took aim at the European Union, blaming them for the spread of coronavirus seen over the past two weeks in the U.S.
“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe,” Trump said.
The new travel restrictions, which Trump said were subject to change depending on “conditions on the ground,” do not include the United Kingdom, which left the European Union on Jan. 31.
Trump praised his own administration’s response to the virus, and took pains to portray it as a foreign problem.
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump said, adding that his administration was responding with “great speed and professionalism.”
By turns optimistic and sober about the threat facing the country, Trump added, “The virus will not have a chance against us.”
Trump also reiterated his call on Congress to suspend payroll taxes throughout the end of the year in an effort to aid businesses hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak, and he pledged to take action to get paid sick leave for workers.
“I will be asking Congress to take action to extend this legislative relief,” Trump said.
Trump’s address came on a day that held more grim news about the coronavirus outbreak. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic, meaning it was now a global phenomenon. More than 115,000 people have been infected with the virus and more than 4,200 have died from it. The number of cases in the U.S. rose to 1,209 on Wednesday in 41 states, resulting in 37 deaths.
For the past two weeks, Trump has sought to downplay the risks posed by coronavirus, initially assuring Americans that the number of cases was “going down,” then implying that the virus was less serious than the common flu.
But the number of cases has continued to rise, and tests continue to be unavailable to many Americans who seek them, owing to bureaucratic and logistical bottlenecks, despite assurances from the White House that they are in the pipeline.
With the global economy contracting as restrictions on travel and community gatherings growing more prevalent, the U.S. stock market suffered another dismal day on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping another 1,646 points.The Dow is now in a bear market, down more than 20 percent from its February highs.
By day’s end the National Basketball Association had suspended its season and Trump himself had canceled a planned trip to Colorado and Nevada.
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